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Furious rabies

Everything you need to know about rabies

Rabies was discovered in the 16th century by an Italian physician Girolamo Fracastoro. This infectious disease is referred to as “an incurable wound”. Rabies is found throughout the world, particularly in Asia, Africa as well as Central and South America.

With rabies outbreaks in certain areas of the country recently, there have been a lot of information being shared but how do you differentiate them between facts and myths?

We speak with Dr. Tan Zhang Jias, a Veterinarian from Kota Damansara Veterinary Clinic & Surgery to learn more on rabies and its incurable wound.

1Twenty80: What is rabies?

Dr. Tan Zhang Jias: Rabies is a fatal disease that is transmitted through a virus. This virus can affect all mammals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, raccoons, bats as well as humans.

1Twenty80: How is rabies transmitted?

Dr. Tan: The virus is passed on through the saliva of infected animals. It is spread when an infected animal bites another animal or person. Other than that, rabies can occur when an infected animal licks an open wound or areas such as your eyes and mouth. It is rare for rabies to spread on unbroken skin.

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1Twenty80: How does one treat an animal bite?

Dr. Tan: Most parts of Malaysia are rabies free. However, if you’re from a certain area that have been reported for cases of rabies, then you should visit a doctor as soon as possible if you’ve been bitten by an animal. Doctors will treat your wound and decide if you require a vaccination for rabies.

1Twenty80: How does rabies develop in humans?

Dr. Tan: After being bitten by an infected animal, the virus enters the body through the bite. It then progresses into the tissue layer and spreads to your nervous system, depending on how far the bite is away from your spinal cord and brain. Once the virus reaches the brain, it progresses rapidly causing behavioural changes in the infected person.

It all comes down to the proximity of the bite from your brain. If the bite is around your hand or leg area, typically it takes a few months to reach to your brain.

1Twenty80: What are the factors that influence the development of rabies?

Dr. Tan: The main factors that influence the development of rabies are through the type of exposure, severity of the bite, the animal that’s responsible for the bite such as dogs, cats or rabbits and site of the bite.

For example bites around the head and neck areas are highly fatal as the bite is closer to the nerve tissue.

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1Twenty80: What are the signs and symptoms of rabies in humans?

Dr. Tan: The common signs and symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Generally feeling tired or weak.
  • You may also feel pain or a burning sensation around the wound.
  • Changes in behaviour such as easily agitated, angry and irritated.
  • Salivating more than usual.

1Twenty80: Is rabies always fatal?

Dr. Tan: As far as I know, there’s usually no chances in surviving once rabies virus has spread to your nervous system. Rabies is fatal after neurological symptoms have developed among animals and humans.

1Twenty80: Under what conditions do we have to take anti-rabies vaccination after being bitten?

Dr. Tan: Seek professional help and get an anti-rabies vaccination once you’ve been bitten by a rabies infected animal especially when the wound is bleeding.

1Twenty80: What should not be done with an animal bite wound? 

Dr. Tan: If one experiences any animal bite wounds, do not neglect it. Get a doctor to take a look

at your wound.

Neglecting would only make it worse. Sometimes, even the smallest wound can lead to bigger complications. Besides that, infections may occur if the wound is deep and left untreated.

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